BBB issues warning after Spanish Lake grandmother falls victim t -

BBB issues warning after Spanish Lake grandmother falls victim to sweepstakes scam

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. ( - Following what seemed to be a huge win, a grandmother from Spanish Lake was devastated to find out she lost $2,000 in a sweepstakes scam.

Seventy-three-year-old Janie Bethel had been entering the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes for years. When she received the call that she had finally won a second place prize of $500,000 she found it easy to believe.

Bethel quickly followed the caller’s requests and completed a wire transfer of $2,000 to the Philippines. It was not until several days later she realized this call had no connection to Publisher’s Clearinghouse.

Now, fully aware she was scammed, Bethel alerted the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker, a program that reports on consumer fraud in Missouri and across North America. Though angry and embarrassed by her loss she knew more could be done.

“I feel awful about what happened, but then I tell myself that something good can come of this,” she told the BBB. “I want people to know about this. I want to help people.”

This is not the first time sweepstakes scams have been reported. The Spanish Lake grandmother is a part of a long list of consumers, many of them senior citizens, who are duped by thieves claiming to represent sweepstakes or lotteries promising big pay outs.

The thieves call or send letters or emails and then guarantee to deliver cash, vacations or luxury cars if the victim sends a nonrefundable fee for taxes or processing. However, once the money is sent, it is gone and there are no prizes awarded and no refunds.

BBB President and CEO Michelle Corey said despite scam-prevention education and law enforcement people continue to lose money on these sweepstakes and lottery scams.

“Many of these people want to believe so badly that they have won that the excitement can cloud their judgment,” she said. “The advice is simple: never, ever pay anything in advance of receiving a lottery or sweepstakes prize.”

Despite numerous calls, her $2,000 was unable to be recovered.

According to the website, BBB offers the following tips to consumers contacted about lottery, sweepstakes or raffle winnings:

  • Remember that nearly all of these notifications are fraudulent. 
  • Never send any payment to anyone as a requirement for receiving your prize. Any such request is a signal that the prize notification is bogus.
  • Never send a wire transfer or give the access number to a prepaid money card to anyone you do not know or anyone you suspect might be trying to steal your money. Wire transfers and prepaid cards are like cash and the money is usually difficult to recover.
  • Report suspicious sweepstakes or other prize awards to BBB at or by calling 314-645-3300

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